The First One is Always the Deepest

Good morning from Chenjiagou!

We arrived in the village after a nice drive out of Zhengzhou, through the countryside, and across the Yellow River. A big change - all along the way there are signs showing the way to “Chenjiagou, Birthplace of Taijiquan”. We navigated our way to our dorms at Chen Ziqiang’s school with a little help from a scooter escort and a talented bus driver who backed through an alley only taking out a small branch of a tree. We got all checked in, tested the AC and got on the wifi (priorities!). We got our WeChat group organized for group comms and headed for lunch.

Most of our meals will be in Chen Ziqiang’s school. The food is excellent. There are lots of choices, fresh vegetables nicely spiced and flavored, rice, and everything is plentiful and filling. After lunch we walked to the main school where we will do our training. We visited with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing and had a warm welcome with tea and apples. We arranged our curriculum and schedule then it was off to afternoon training!

Let me say here that we really got a break with the weather yesterday. It was in the 80s, breezy and overcast with occasional drizzle. The school isn’t air conditioned, and the occasional breezes that came through the windows were most welcome. We started right away with 30 minutes of standing followed by 30 minutes of reeling silk. The standing was different for me this time. I vibrated and shook and sweated like never before, and I guess I was releasing all of the years of work tension, truly feeling my retirement. I never had any pain or muscle cramps, but never stopped shaking the whole 30 minutes. I didn’t see the others but during the break heard of similar experiences. Something about the qi here…

The corrections by Grandmaster CXX are always amazing. He has the ability to show you a depth you can’t achieve on your own, and for that we keep coming back. He is so generous, clear and unrelenting when he’s teaching - such a valuable experience. Being so fully in one’s body is not something available to most of us during our every day lives, and being able to stand like this, on the ground of the Chen family ancestors, mingling our qi with theirs, is an experience I will always treasure.

Bill and I were interviewed by a Wenxian television station during the latter part of the training. We were taken to the museum and temple grounds by CZQ’s younger son who acted as our translator. He just graduated from high school last month so this was a chance for him to practice his English. The interviewer asked us questions about how we got into Taijiquan, our daily practice, how it’s affected our lives, and information about our school. They filmed us doing some taiji in front of the statues and the museum. I don’t know if we will see this interview, but it was fun to participate!

After training, we were treated to a wonderful dinner with CZQ along with the Argentines who are also here training. We all piled into two large tuktuk vehicles and sped down the road at 2-3 mph to the outdoor restaurant. We had great food, beer, soda and orange juice under the stars (artificial stars strung up above us but still.). We were showered and in bed by 9pm.

I am honored to be here training with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. Someday these masters will be gone, and we are so lucky to have had these opportunities to study with them over the last 20 years. I will soak it all in over the next few days!

A side note - the blog will likely be without pictures due to the spotty internet connections. Pictures will be posted directly to facebook for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for your understanding!

The Flight(s)

We made it to Zhengzhou! The flights are longer, the airport walks more endless, the planes smaller each year I take this trip. The thought creeps quickly into my inner dialogue - “...not coming back...”. The first 6 hours on the plane are the hardest, the time I’m sleeping, paradoxically. I worry about a DVT so even through my Ambien haze I move my feet, do ankle pumps, change my position. Then, there is the first cup of coffee around 7am my time, 10pm China time. Slowly things improve, especially after that delicious bowl of noodles at the Beijing airport, and a great dinner in Zhengzhou.

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We collected our group all along the way. We are complete now, a group of 12. Some had challenges along the way, but there has never been a China trip without challenges! It’s part of the deal. Tomorrow we’re heading for Chenjiagou after our ritual breakfast at the Sofitel, and in the afternoon we’ll start our training. I’m really looking forward to settling into some deep Laojia Yilu with Chen Xiaoxing.

I know one thing. Walking through miles of airport hallways carrying my little 20L pack reminds me that I must take very little on my Camino next year. Walking with a pack is very different than walking without one.


Almost packed!

Bill and I are leaving tomorrow evening for China. Classes will continue as usual with the following exception:

  • Saturday morning broadsword class 9:30am will not meet until I return on August 03

Otherwise the most excellent substitute teachers will hold down the fort! We’ll be posting as we are able, so check the blog here and on facebook!

Bill and Allison

China here we come!

In 9 days, we will be winging our way to Chenjiagou to study with our teacher, Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. This is always a pilgrimage of sorts. We will arrive in Zhengzhou on the 16 with significant jet lag, and will recover from this with one night in a luxury hotel before going to the village for our training. I’m already looking forward to the breakfast buffet that will boost us up for the rigorous training!

We are taking 10 students with us. Some have been with us before and some have never been to China at all. We’re doing 6 days in the village then some tourist activities, including the Longmen Grottos, the Great Wall, Olympic Park, the 798 Art District, and the silk factory.

Stay tuned to this page for the blogs!

Happy Holidays!

We at the Taoist Sanctuary would like to wish everyone happy holidays and a safe New Year! We will be closed from December 24th - January 1st, and will return to classes on January 2nd.

We will do our traditional New Year’s Day flow on Coronado Island at 9am. Please join us at Sunset Park, at the end of Ocean Blvd.

Competing Priorities and Lessons Learned

There's good news and there's bad news. Over the last year, my taiji practice has decreased significantly. By that I mean I spend less time doing forms. That's the bad news. The good news? Taiji has given me such wonderful tools for living my life that I am able to continuously apply these lessons to all sorts of situations, even when I'm not actually practicing forms. 

My job takes a lot of my time and energy. On some days, the work is so demanding that I just want to go home and decompress in a quiet people-free environment. At the beginning of these days, I typically think "oh, I'll go to class tonight!". As the day goes on, that thought recedes into the back of my mind, replaced with "boy I can't wait to go home and put my feet up". I could go to class anyway, but honestly, I know myself well enough to know what I need, when I need it, and my way of recharging is to rest quietly. I am happy when I take the time during lunch to go through the forms - those times are precious to me. I am sad some days about these circumstances, but it is what it is, for now. It won't always be this way and I look forward to returning to regular evening classes. 

What I have found is that I think about taiji a lot anyway. I think about centering, deflecting, yielding, looking for openings, flowing through rocks like water. Everything I do uses taiji principles. These principles have served me well over the years. I will never forget one of the most important things Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang said to me - "Taijiquan teaches me how to behave". 

I'm not suggesting you don't go to class. You should go to class when you can, and practice when you can. If you don't have as much time to practice as you would like, think about the principles and how to use them in your daily life. And if you practice forms a lot, and don't understand what I'm talking about in this blog, spend some time thinking about the principles that your teacher is teaching you, and open the door to a new way to behave. 

Allison